We love hearing from our fans! This Dog Tale comes from Trish and her four-legged friend, Tilley, in British Columbia. Trish is an avid Ruff Wear Dog Blog reader and “loves the gear”. Thanks for sending in your story Trish!
Tilley came to live with me last fall. She was rescued from death row in Washington State, and we both decided to take a chance on each other. A small, but hardy, Australian Cattle Dog, she has been a great hiking/snow shoeing companion, but we never ventured too far from our Okanagan Valley home. I wanted to step it up and bring my new buddy backpacking.
First, Tilley needed a backpack to carry her own food and water. I chose the Ruff Wear Palisades Pack. The built in hydration packs sold me, but when the harness fit so well, I knew I made the right choice. Hiking, at times, 15km to 20km a day, comfort is crucial. My pack fit well, I wanted nothing less for my little canine friend. Two weeks before departure Tilley wore her backpack each day for an hour or two on our daily hikes, I gradually increased the weight every couple of days until we reached the 6 lbs she would carry on the trip. She seemed to enjoy having a job to do accepting the pack with ease. In line with my, “Work hard, play hard” philosophy, I unclipped the pack from the harness at some point during each hike allowing her the freedom to run and play without having to take the harness off.
The day arrived, Tilley was ready for the Rockies. After a five hour drive to Yoho National Park in British Columbia, we had a 10km hike to Twin Falls, our first camp spot. I don’t know if it was the sensed excitement from her human friends, or the cool mountain air, but Tilley trotted along behind me free as a bird, and just as light. The pack was of no consequence to her. Making excellent time, we set up camp and decided to explore. Reaching the bottom of Twin Falls we spotted a trail leading to the top, we pushed on. Even without backpacks, the steep climb was gruelling. Views of glaciers, and the thundering falls within arm’s reach, made the climb worthwhile. Sheer rock face drop-offs were slick as we precariously teetered on the edge in the pouring rain. Having the Flat Out Leash securely around my waist, allowed me to rein Tilley in. Heights do not intimidate her and I didn’t want any accidents. Three hours later with the sun gone, we trudged into camp, wet and hungry, total kilometres for the day, eighteen.
After a well deserved meal it was time to figure out where in the tent to put a wet dog. My husband went in first to spread out a most inadequate microfiber cloth I thought would do for a dog mat. The plan was Tilley would sleep at the foot of the tent on the cloth without disturbing us. Wrong! When Tim was ready I let Tilley in the tiny 2-man backpacking tent where Tim was to direct her off my down sleeping bag and onto the cloth. Let it be known that Tilley usually sleeps in her crate at home. If she didn’t have her own soft bedding, my fluffy down bag would have to do. I was in the tent in a flash commanding her off my bed, but instead of moving to her place she jumped in- between Tim’s legs with record settling time. She became increasingly restless until Tim got fed up and stuffed her in his bag. With the smell of wet dog wafting through the tent, we all slept relatively well.
Morning brought a new dilemma. Tilley, awoke at the crack of dawn, started sniffing around for signs her humans were awake. Crawling on all fours very close to the ground, she started to creep between Tim and me, creating her own crevasse as she went. I was not ready to rise and lay perfectly still. Making a grave error, I peeked out of the sleeping bag only to meet eye to eye with Tilley. It was like an alarm went off. Ecstatic to know I was alive, Tilley flew around the inside of the tent like a ping pong ball at a championship tournament. All the down stay commands in the world were not going to get her to stop. Finally, my disgruntled husband, in a not-so-quiet voice boomed, “GET OUT”, as he unzipped the door. The wise woman that I am, I refrained suggesting he follow her, but proceeded to clamour out of the tent in search of Tilley. To my surprise, she was faithfully waiting when I emerged, as if this early morning outing was my idea. We took a stroll down by the river where I was hoping to see some wildlife; apparently it was too early even for them, so we sat huddled together looking on as the sun slowly crept up over the mountain. It was breath-taking.
Unable to reserve a campsite at Yoho Valley, our next leg took us back five km to Laughing Falls, a good starting point for the 14 km day-hike to Yoho Valley. Dumping our large backpacks for a more compact version, we set out to explore Yoho Valley with Tilley in tow. Void of her backpack, this was Tilley’s fun day. Glacier Lilies lined the moderately easy trail, their drooping yellow heads reaching for the moist ground on this exceptionally warm day. As we moved along this beautiful, sparsely wooded trail, I detected movement from the corner of my eye. Less than 30 feet from the trail stood a young doe, undisturbed by our presence. I quietly moved beside Tilley, took the end of the flat-out leash out of my pocket, and clamped it on her collar. The deer didn’t budge. I never walk or hike without the leash around my waist. Tilley stays close off-leash, but extra precaution is needed when we encounter wildlife. I like having the leash available without carrying it in my hand or rummaging through a backpack to find its retrieval came too late. Leaving the deer behind we moved beyond the tree line where I soon needed to leash Tilley up again, as the ground squirrels were everywhere. Their heads were popping out every few feet. The antagonist’s constant high-pitched chirping was too much for Tilley to bear. Fighting like a salmon on the end of a leash, Tilley was determined to quiet every ground squirrel in the meadow. We were happy to leave Prairie dog town and return to camp. Our total kilometres hiked for day two; nineteen. Sleeping arrangements hadn’t changed that night, but the absence of wet dog odour was a bonus.
We had an easy 5 km hike out the next day. Tilley’s backpack was lighter since she had eaten all her food except emergency rations, enabling her to venture up scree hillsides and through shallow creeks. I have backpacked for many years, but it has been some time since I have taken a dog with me, and although I need to work out a better system for sleeping arrangements, I highly recommend bringing a canine companion. Tilley has proven to be an outdoor adventurer.